Old Dogs And Winter

Posted by on Jan 13, 2018 in Blog | Leave a comment

The animals I live with are getting on in age, but then again, I guess I am too. Griffin is ten, and that is three years past expected for an Irish wolfhound. Kiwi, the marmalade cat is 15 and my horse is going on twenty-five.

It is winter on San Juan Island. There is a fire burning in the woodstove day and night, winds and rain are relentless. It is technically still morning AND it will be dark in four hours.

I was walking with Griffin in the woods today. Glistening green. Can I paint glistening green? It was the highest tide I have ever seen by the lagoon. It started to rain, and with the wind, we got soaked to the skin. Ducked into the wood and followed a deer trail that wove in through the moss covered limbs next to the rain-dappled lagoon. Griffin led the way through a four-foot high trail. After struggling over tree trunks and under branches, we eventually found ourselves back on the main trail. We were the only human and dog in the park today.

I often think of Fenny, my girl wolfhound who passed away last year. She and Griffin were never more than a few feet from each other until the day she died. I wonder if he senses her presence, like I do, when we pass through her favorite haunts.

We don’t walk as fast as we used to. No longer three miles of rugged terrain in less than an hour. Griffin is slowing down and there is a time and place for every action. The slowing down gives me time to pause and consider. I notice colors and shapes, smells and sounds. The moldery scent of leaves gone by reminds me of an eight year old walking home from school in a small town in Quebec. The brilliant fall leaves fallen after a storm. Finches are chirping and hustling in the undergrowth and eagles chortling in the distance. The colors are intense this time of year. Damp brings out the richest and lushest of color. Cedar tree appears green but when I look closely I see alizarin, gold and blue. There are thousands of shades of green. Where sun strikes foliage the light glistens white. The deepest shadows are as dark as raven. I ponder, daydream and make up stories. I meander and walk for the sake of walking, drinking in the grace and abundance of the woods. Just me and Griffin and all the creatures of the forest.

It is winter on San Juan Island. The people are friendly and I can turn left on Spring Street. The bounty of Christmas lights warms my heart. Christmas Eve, Kings closed its doors early; everyone hugged each other and went home to their families. This is the essence of the island in winter.

Back home, the sun is low in the sky and warming a spot in the clean straw. Kiwi and his old bones is curled up there, eyes closed and drunk in the warmth. The garden has been put to sleep and new beds are fermenting and fecund, preparing for spring planting.

It will be dark soon, so I bring in some firewood from the wood pile under the trees. Cut a few years ago and well seasoned. I am protective of the kindling and only use a tiny bit to start the fire. I am not so good with an axe so I cherish what I have. Dog bowls are filled with water and Kiwi, Griffin and I are ready to retreat to the warmth of the little wood house on the hill. Smoke is billowing from the chimney. It is inviting. Griffin takes to his four foot by five foot memory foam, Kiwi curls up by the fire and I begin chopping vegetables for dinner.

The animals are getting older and I take more moments to be in their presence. I sit in the chair by the fire, hold Kiwi in my arms and we look into each other’s eyes. Winter is about slowing down, going inside and reflecting. The colors are richer. Maybe it is because I slow down enough to notice.

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